AiG's Ken Ham and Tree Frogs
With thanks to Michael Suttkus, Richard Lead, Ken Smith and Cheryl Capra
who each contributed to this response.
KEN HAM ON EDUCATION -- Tree frogs . . . they make evolution croak! (September 21, 2001)
Ken Ham: Question: Is it true that tree frogs have a number of characteristics that evolution can't explain?
No! Isn't that EXACTLY the sort of behaviour evolution explains so well? We could find thousands of similar examples of complex breeding patterns in the different species.
Ken Ham: Answer: They sure do. If you take a really good look at the marvelous design features of the tree frog, you would truly have to say that evolution is dead.
Even if this were true, it wouldn't resurrect the desiccated corpse of creationism. I mean, we're still waiting for Ham to explain why flowering plants are found only at the top of the fossil record. Of course Ham would respond by citing Noah's flood. The gum trees managed to outrun the pine trees and got to the top of the mountains, while the pine trees languished in the valleys and got drowned first.
Creationists are fond of stating, "some species can outrun rising flood waters better than others". Some species of *plant* can run better than others? Is it their contention that oak trees run faster than tree ferns? Are they saying that psilophyta are very slow plants and just can't keep up with modern pines?
This particular load of tripe usually brings on spasms of laughter from everyone as well as a slew of bad puns:
"Of course plants can escape rising flood waters! Haven't you heard of runner beans?", and
"Rastafarian grass got to the top easily, just floating high above the flood!"
Ken Ham: For instance, frogs eggs don't have a hard shell to protect them and keep them moist.
Okay, follow the logic here. Because frog eggs don't have something that would be good design, they have excellent design? Because God is so incompetent that he can't give frogs hard shelled eggs, it's evolution that's refuted?
Ken Ham: So laying eggs like these in trees would quickly lead to dried up eggs, and then no more tree frogs.
Notice that even in order to pretend to make his case, Ham has to ignore the proposed evolutionary history. Ham wants you to believe that frogs couldn't have evolved from ancestors without the foam and frothing, because the eggs would have dried. But the lie is revealed quickly when you look at what scientists actually claim. Frogs evolved from fish, say scientists, and fish don't have a great deal of trouble with eggs drying out. While it's hard to see how a land creature could survive long enough to develop foam and froth, it is pathetically easy (but still too hard for creationists, apparently) to explain how an amphibian, initially laying eggs under water, can, by slowly developing the techniques, become more and more tolerant of the surface, and eventually terrestrial.
The question must be asked when creationists try to refute science, why is it that they never seem to actually examine the claims science makes?
The fact is, amphibian eggs are remarkably poorly designed. In nearly all ways (except expense of production), reptile eggs are better, and are certainly much better for a terrestrial animal. Yet amphibians don't have them. Why? "Marvellous design"? Next, Ham will point out how the quadruped organ supports that cause us humans such agony in later life are really great design. He's already argued that the blind spots and backwards, incompetent construction of our eyes are somehow good design. This despite the fact that his purported "advantage" of the eyes reversed veins and nerves, blocking UV light, is something they don't do very well and which could have been done much better by simply making the lenses in our eyes polarised. According to Ham God apparently knows how to do this because other animals have them, so why don't we?
It's clear, from Ham's claim that blind spots are "good design" and that he doesn't suffer from glaucoma. The blind spot in each eye is so because that is where the nerves collect and emerge from the eyeball and hence there are no light receptors. Like most other drainage systems, the system for draining fluid from the eyes sometimes gets clogged and pressure builds up in the eye. The fluid forces its way out through the blind spot and in the process can easily damage the nerve fibres, leading to loss of vision in parts of the eye - known to sufferers and the medical profession as glaucoma. If our eyes were designed like octopus eyes we wouldn't have this problem.
Who knows what kind of stupid bad design Ham will claim is "marvelous" next.
Ken Ham: But God provided for this in giving them a special way of protecting the eggs. The female frog covers them with a layer of bubbly foam that the male beats into a lather with his hind legs, kind of like beating egg whites.
What a mean God, forcing those frogs to work so hard to produce a lacklustre, ineffective protection when hard shelled eggs would be so much easier. Such marvelous design!
Ken Ham: Evolution can't explain how the female developed the ability to produce the foamy layer of protection, or how the male knew that he had to beat it into a lather. Evolution doesn't have answers for these problems or any others. God, not blind chance, designed and created life, as our answers in Genesis tell us.
Actually, evolution appears to answer every problem that creationists put forward.
While there are numerous things that we don't yet have good answers for, it's puzzling that creationists never seem to ask about any of those things. Nearly everything they challenge us with was answered decades, if not over a century ago. Why is it that creationists can't actually put forward any of the challenges we can't answer? There would seem to be two potential answers, depending on how honest you consider creationists:
1. They're all ignorant, and haven't bothered to study science enough to see the real challenges.
2. They're all liars, and knowing that technical questions like, "What stimulated the development of L-amino-lippoaldehidylyketomethylethylpentylhexanone in prokaryotes" is going to do nothing but confuse their followers they lie and "invent" problems they hope will be understood and believed.
Finally, a comment from an Australian science teacher.
Even my 12 year old students could come up with some questions for AiG, and reasonable answers with regard to the tree frog's "design" problem. The protective substance made by the female is the "bread and butter" of natural selection, while the male's "whipping it up" frenzy could just as easily be explained through natural selection for a particular pheromone in the protective gel sending the poor fellow into a frenzy. At any rate, even if no scientist had derived the pathway through which evolution has occurred, THAT does not PROVE design by a god.
As any of our 12 year olds would tell Ham he only has to note some of the adaptations evident in Australian fauna and flora as a result of El Nino and La Nina to realise how natural selection works. The kids did some great work on this topic for our Science Expo in National Science Week this year. Most of my students seem to equate Creationists with Flat Earthers - harmless enough (in their opinion, not mine!) but pretty doughy.
By the way, our students did well in the Queensland Science Contest once again, taking out eight prizes and bursaries for their entries.